Mortal Kombat 1 is Nearly Ready for its Blood-Soaked Debut

The Mortal Kombat franchise’s grand return is nearly here. In less than a month, players will get their hands on Mortal Kombat 1, the twelfth mainline entry in the blood-soaked franchise. What makes Mortal Kombat 1 so different from Mortal Kombat 2011 is the fact that it’s mostly a fresh start. With a rebooted timeline and only a few connections to the previous timelines, NetherRealm Studios aims to clear the slate by bringing forward what worked most, leaving behind what didn’t, and injecting the franchise with new ideas. While we’ll have to wait to see how the story pans out, we do have a good idea about how gameplay and online functionality is shaping up. The studio held a beta over the past weekend to give players a taste of what to expect mechanically from the anticipated title.

Much of what we discussed in our preview of the stress test remains true here. Mortal Kombat 1 continues to feel like a natural extension of the Mortal Kombat legacy. The removal of variations and a return to the standard Super Meter are welcome, giving characters their full arsenal and forcing players to be more strategic with how they spend Super. The lack of stage interactions is disappointing for the flashy, cinematic actions they could create, but it’s nice to just focus on the combat. All four of the previous playable characters (Kenshi, Liu Kang, Kitana, and Sub-Zero) and Kameos (Sonya, Jax, and Kano) were available for the beta.

So, what was new? The beta added an additional two characters to try along with a new Kameo. As a fan of the 3D era, it was a true delight to see Lei Mei and her light-focused powers back in action. She’s more of a challenge to master as she doesn’t have a defined moveset like the other available characters (she has not been playable since Mortal Kombat: Armageddon). Once settled in, however, you’ll find she’s excellent at playing set-up. Johnny Cage, meanwhile, is more of a known quantity with familiar Special Moves and button combos. His simpler combos make him an excellent starting point for newer players. Finally, Frost does what a Kameo does, pop in at a player’s command to lend a hand. In this case, many of her moves involve freezing enemies and granting the player a free hit or combo starter.

Anything else? Unfortunately, no, the beta was similar to the stress test content wise. It did at least feel as if NetherRealm Studios has addressed the biggest issue, though; the slow and sluggish feel of the combat. Whether they truly did alter settings, or perhaps we’re getting more used to this game’s pacing, but the beta’s combat felt snappier than the stress test. The online component also felt relatively smooth in our matches, hopefully leading to a stellar launch.

The Mortal Kombat 1 beta continues to instill confidence in the final product. The game remains visually stunning in both its character work and backgrounds, it plays extremely well and NetherRealm is carefully cherry-picking the best elements of previous eras to create something fresh. It would have been nice to see a wider array of content in this beta. The lack of additional stages or characters to test out is a bummer, as is a chance to test out the PC and Switch versions, but at least we won’t have to wait that much longer for the full, bloody product.

Mortal Kombat 1 launches September 19 on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Switch.

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